According to Mom, her nonna—my great-grandmother—spent hours and hours making ravioli for Christmas each year. They truly are a labor of love: between preparing the filling, making the pasta, rolling and assembling the ravioli, and making their sauce, it's like you've made the meal four or five times. When the food passes so many times through the hands of the cook, it cannot help but absorb what's in the heart of the cook.
And in my heart, there's joy to see the ravioli spring into the world out of nothing but flour, egg, pumpkin, and cheese. There's the warm companionship of cooking with my partner, Beth. There's a sense of connection with the women in my family, whose hands have also kneaded dough, rolled it thin, doled out filling, and set trim little pasta shapes on a floured towel to dry. And there's the anticipation of delight when, on Christmas Day, people we love will take pleasure and nourishment from the food we're making.
Ravioli di Zucca pa' Natale
That is to say, pumpkin ravioli for Christmas. This is my recipe, not Nonna's, but I hope she'd be proud. You can make the filling ahead of time and freeze it. You can also freeze the ravioli.
This recipe will make perhaps 80 or so ravioli. For a side dish, plan on 6 per person. For a main dish, plan on 9 to 12 per person.
A pumpkin, 3-4 lb.
½ lb. grated Parmesan
Salt and black pepper to taste
5 c semolina flour (any other kind will work)
A tablespoon or two of olive oil
For every 6 ravioli you plan to serve,
1 T butter
2-3 sage leaves, fresh or dried
1-2 baby spinach leaves
1 T shaved Parmesan cheese
Ground black pepper
Cut the top off the pumpkin. Hollow it out, then replace its lid. Place in a pan and bake at 375° for one to one and a half hours or until tender. Let cool.
Peel the pumpkin, cut the flesh into small pieces, and mash it. Mix it with the Parmesan and seasonings to taste.
On a wooden cutting board or directly on your work surface, make a mountain of the flour. Make a volcano crater in it with your fist. Crack the eggs into the crater and add a splash of olive oil.
Set a pot of salted water on the stove to boil. Heat the butter in a skillet or saucepan. Gently sauté the sage leaves until they are crispy; break them up in the butter a little. Sliver the spinach leaves.
Cook the ravioli. If they are fresh, this will take less than five minutes. If they are frozen, just drop them right in the boiling water without thawing.
Drain them well and arrange them on a plate. Drizzle them with the sage butter, sprinkle with shaved parmesan, and toss on a smattering of the spinach slivers. Finish with a grind or three of fresh black pepper.
Buon Natale, mios amicos.